“That would really help lycanthropes be more accepted,” Envy said.
“It’s a great opportunity,” I said. “I’ll miss you like hell, but I’ve never seen you as happy as you are with J.J., so what can I do to help?”
He smiled at me, not his usual teasing smile, but the one that was just him, just our friendship. “First, we all think if you maybe had more experience with women, or could talk to someone about having female lovers, you might be able to help Jade feel more a part of things.”
I raised eyebrows and looked across the table at Envy. “Are you volunteering to mentor me?”
“Me, no,” Envy said, shaking her blond hair hard.
“Then why are you here today? Domino is the only other black tiger in our group, so he and Jade are pals, but you’re golden tiger, which makes you a totally different clan.”
“I’m a female weretiger, and the only one you have other than Jade, so she talks to me. I’m with Jean-Claude and Richard, so she sees our positions as similar: We’re lovers, but not the beloved of our lovers.”
I tried to roll that sentence around in my head, gave up, and said, “So you’re here as Jade’s friend?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Okay. But you aren’t volunteering to teach me? Honestly, I’m not offering either; nothing personal, but Jade is confusing me enough I don’t need to add more girls. Hell, I don’t even need to add more boys.”
“I’ve never actually been with another woman, so I’m not mad at you that you’re puzzled about having a female lover, but you do have sexual contact with Jade; we just thought another woman with more experience in the area might be helpful.”
I looked at Jason. “You’re not offering some fantasy where you just add me to you and J.J. for a threesome, are you? Because if that’s it . . .” I looked at him harder.
He grinned and then laughed. “No, I’m not, though if it’s on the table, I wouldn’t say no.”
“Nothing personal to J.J., she’s beautiful, but I can’t see being with her, just the two of us.”
“You went straight to sex, didn’t you? It never occurred to you to just talk to J.J. over coffee about it, did it?” Envy said.
I blushed, a little, and shrugged. “Am I supposed to have a little bisexual coffee klatch?”
“That might help, but that wouldn’t solve my problem,” Jason said.
“Which problem?” I asked.
“You can’t make Freda hate me less, or stop being jealous of J.J., but you could help me explain rough sex to my girlfriend.”
“How?” I asked, and the one word dripped with suspicion.
He grinned, and then his face sobered, happiness gone like a switch, on/off. It hurt me to see him like that.
“Is J.J. really thinking about breaking up with you over the issue?” I asked.
“I’m breaking up with Richard because of it,” Envy said.
“No, it’s not the same. I don’t try to fuck J.J. until it hurts her. She’s sort of my version of the human women Richard dates, the ones he wants the white picket fence with, but I need the rough stuff, too. I just know I’m not going to get it with J.J.”
“Explain it to her the way you told me, that you’ll die without it.” She sounded disdainful.
“You don’t believe us, why should she?” Jason asked.
Envy opened her mouth, started to say something, stopped, and then sipped her tea; again you could watch her thinking.
“So,” I said, “what would help explain it to J.J.?”
“Seeing it,” he said.
I glared at him with no chance he’d jolly me out of it. “I’m not that much of an exhibitionist.”
“I know, and that’s not what I’m asking.”
“What exactly are you asking?”
Nathaniel took my hand in both of his, which made me gaze up into those lavender eyes. I wondered if I’d ever look up into his eyes and not be startled by how pretty they were. “We were thinking that you and I would have sex in the room with Jason and J.J. and just let the differences speak for themselves.”
I gave him wide eyes.
“It wouldn’t be the first time we’d shared a bedroom with another couple, or several, Anita.”
“That’s for feeding the ardeur, or when things get out of hand and we can’t control it. I’ve never agreed to anything like this while sober from the ardeur.”
“Maybe it’s time that you did,” he said, softly.
I opened my mouth, closed it, and didn’t know what to say. Hell, I barely knew what to think. “Well, fuck,” I said, at last.
“That’s the hope,” Jason said.
Domino said, “Sorry to put a damper on the plan, but Nathaniel and Anita alone don’t really go that rough.”
The three of us looked at each other. “How rough do you need her to see, Jason?” I asked.
He thought about it for a moment, and then sighed. “Rougher than you and Nathaniel, probably.”
“I can do rougher,” Nathaniel said.
I patted him. “You can.”
“Anita and I are rougher together than you and she alone,” Jason said.
“Add Nicky and Nathaniel co-topping me and it’s rougher,” I said.
Jason laughed. “I want to introduce J.J. to rougher sex, not scare her to death.”
“Nicky makes love, too,” I said, feeling the need to defend one of my absent lovers.
“I believe you, but I’ve seen his rough, and something about how tall he is, those massive shoulders, and the edge-play bondage takes him out of the comfort zone for me, let alone for J.J.”
Nicky was as blond and blue-eyed as Jason and Envy, but he made everyone here today seem . . . frail. He wasn’t the tallest guard we had, but he did have one of the biggest shoulder spreads, and was just one of those big guys who seemed huge, maybe a combination of physical size and personality. He was also an admitted sociopath, which meant his reaction to situations was either socially perfect or so wrong you had no words for it. I loved him, meaning I was in love with him, and he me, which meant he wasn’t nearly the sociopath he thought he was, just someone with a childhood background so harsh only Nathaniel’s held a candle to it.
“Okay, if Nathaniel and I aren’t rough enough, and you don’t want Nicky, or I assume anyone else in the room, what are the options?” I asked.
“Since it’s Jason’s idea of rough that J.J. needs to see, then he and Anita should be the ones demonstrating,” Envy said.
We all looked at her; maybe they weren’t entirely friendly looks, because she said, “What? That’s the logical choice.”
I looked at Jason. “Do you think J.J. would be okay watching you and me have actual sex?”
“I don’t know. I’ll ask, because Envy’s right, J.J. needs to see what I’m talking about, not what you and Nathaniel do, or you and Nicky.”
And just like that we began to negotiate taking it from an idea to a reality. Every time I thought my sex life couldn’t get weirder, or more complicated, I was so wrong.
TWO WEEKS LATER, J.J. was able to visit St. Louis. I was incredibly nervous. You’d think there would be a point where I’d had enough sex, broken enough taboos, thrown out enough traditional values that nothing would faze me, but it just didn’t work that way. I was disappointed that it didn’t work that way; it seemed like if you had thrown all the conventional ideas of sex and relationships out the window, it would make you impervious to being embarrassed, or awkward, but it didn’t. I wanted to get angry about that, but I’d expected it to piss me off, so I was ready to fight against the urge to be grumpy. I did pout. I gave myself permission to be grumpy enough to pout about the fact that I felt like I was sixteen again, and had stumbled under the bleachers, tripping over the head cheerleader and star quarterback.
I was nervous and grumpy right up to the moment I saw J.J. step out of the crowd at Lambert Airport. We saw her before she saw us, because we were standing on the raised area that features different local arts and crafts. I was sometimes puzzled by the art, but it was a great way to see over the crowd if you were short like Jason and me. Her face lit up, as if someone had ignited a candle inside her skin so that the happy glow of it filled her and made strangers look at her and Jason, as he ran to her. She dropped her big purse to the floor and flung herself at him. He actually picked her up off the ground, and she bent her knees so he could do so even though she was five foot eight to his five foot four, tucking her feet up so he had all her body weight as they kissed and he turned slowly in place, as if they were dancing to the crowd noise.